Sunday, March 09, 2014

Weekend Fun & Games

I hate Daylight Savings Time.  There.  I said it. 

I hate the fact that I'm sitting here looking at my iPad clock, and it says 9:12, but I know it's only 8:12.  Not cool.  It's Sunday.  Why on earth I'm getting up at 8AM is beyond me...even if it really is 9AM.

But, oh well.  Not much I can do about it.  

What I can do is spend my Sunday having a little fun, and getting out with the kiddos to see one of my favorite people in the whole wide world.  I'm WAY overdue for a visit to P-Momma's house.  It was one of my resolutions to get over there to see her more, but thanks to the snow we've had (that's the excuse I'm going to use) I didn't see her the ENTIRE month of February.

I spent my Saturday having some fun, also.  I finally downloaded Minecraft on to my iPad and on to my PS3.  Neither are the exact same as what I'll be doing in my classroom, but I figure if I'm going to be using it as a teaching tool I'd better get acquainted with the game.

Jumping in to a project like the one I'm taking on without knowing SOMETHING about the game would be like me trying to teach Spanish.  I'd be able to give them a few words that I know, but then I'd be counting on my Spanish speaking kids to basically take over and do the rest.  

I've never been to a Spanish speaking country.  I've never taken a Spanish class.  So, I'd basically be trying to teach a class on stuff I've heard other people use, but have absolutely no idea what any of it means.

So, I loaded up the game and took off.

It didn't take me long to realize that the iPad version would do me absolutely NO good until I've played some of the full PS3 version.  The iPad version is the "lite" version so it comes with no tutorial, no instruction... just dumps you in a world and expects you to do whatever it is you're supposed to do in Minecraft.  An extension of the game, I'm sure they assume, has been played on another device.  Which, again, I had absolutely no idea what to do other than I had to put blocks down to build stuff.

The PS3 version was SOOOO much better, and I ended up playing the game for several hours even though I barely completed the tutorial and just started up my own world.

What I did discover, however, is that I understand the appeal.  I understand why kids would go so crazy over the game.  Because they are at the complete controls.  Nobody telling them what to do.  Nobody telling them how to do it.  Just complete and utter freedom to explore, create, gather supplies, and build their fantasy worlds.

There are absolutely no threats, except for a few spiders and ill-looking Lego guys that come out after dark if you haven't build a secure shelter to protect yourself in.  Plus, they have the option of playing the Survival Mode or Creative Mode.  Survival Mode starts out with the player having NOTHING.  No materials, no tools, no food...nothing.  The player has to collect materials to craft their own materials so that they can make their own shelter.  Plus, they have to gather and create their own food supply in order to survive.  Creative Mode gives the player endless supplies so that the player can design and create basically anything they want.  

I had a go at both options, and I was much more interested in the Survival Mode simply because there was so form of challenge thrown my way.

And, as I was playing my inner child was getting all giddy with excitement.  But, it didn't take long for my adult version to yell out in frustration because there were no instructions, no rules, no guidance on what I'm supposed to do, no actual "game play" that involved missions or levels.  I knew I had to create materials in order to survive, but there was no map guiding me to where I could find my materials.  There was no clock telling me how much time I had in order to do whatever it was that I was planning on doing, and night falling meaning that spiders and monsters would soon be attacking me.  Yet, I just couldn't stop playing. 

And, that was probably the most important realization I could have while trying out the game.

As I move in to developing this project, I have to keep all that in mind.  I can't take away the heart of the appeal to the game.

My original plan was to create a world in which the students would have to complete set assignments and challenges that I created.  The Minecraft EDU platform gives me that power.  I can lock the game down to only allowing the students to do what I ask them to do, and how I want them to do it.

But, now that I've spent just a small amount of time playing the game, I realized that I can't take that heart of the game away.  Why stifle them?  Why make them follow a set line of rules?  Why give them assignments?  Why NOT let them create what they want to create, with a few guidelines, and then have them defend and present WHY they chose the creations they did?  Let them make their own decisions, but just explain WHY they made the decisions.  Isn't that what we want our students doing, anyway? Critical thinking.  Decisive thinking.  Defending their own thinking and ideas.

Sure, I can throw in a few challenges here and there... a few mini projects I want them to complete... but the overall experience has to be about them being the commanders of their own worlds and their own choices.

They need shelter.  They need food.  But, they also need to figure out how to acquire those things.  There isn't always going to be someone doing all that stuff for them. 

And honestly?  I can't wait to play a little more.  Dig a little deeper.  Create a few more things.  

So, if I'm feeling that way, I just KNOW that the kids are going to have an absolute blast.  Especially the few kiddos that haven't had the chance to play before.

But, before I think about spending any more time playing, I get to have even more fun with my P-Momma.  And that's what I'm excited about today.

Before I get to her house, though, I have to go and pick up Peanut from her friend's house.  

Then, Sunday Funday can completely commence.

So, just a short one today.  Figure I'll spend my day DOING more than EXPLAINING.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!!


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